In yoga, a posture not practiced with integrity can cause physical harm. Instead of the benefits of the postures, we can actually pull muscles and turn joints out of whack. But what does integrity mean in yoga? How does it translate to the law? Physically, integrity means creating a solid foundation in a posture. When we are strong in our core, in our foundation, we have integrity, and the rest of the body relaxes into the pose. Let me repeat that, when we practice with integrity, the practice can be relaxing, even if strenuous. This is what creates the benefit in the physical yoga practice. Integrity in a posture creates the physical environment for safety, strength, and yes, relaxation.
In law, integrity serves the same purpose - a solid foundation. When our actions are done with integrity, people notice. Even if we make mistakes, if we act with integrity, the mistakes tend to go away faster. When we act with integrity, we need not question each action because our foundation is strong. With a strong foundation, we can move forward in our practice with more ease.
Once Justice Stevens announced his retirement, just weeks before his 90th birthday, the web erupted with stories of his time on the bench. I have read several articles about him, but the one word that comes up again and again is integrity. Here is what President Obama had to say about Justice Stevens: "When President Ford was faced with a Supreme Court vacancy shortly after the nation was still recovering from the Watergate scandal, he wanted a nominee who was brilliant, non-ideological, pragmatic, and committed above all to justice, integrity, and the rule of law. He found that nominee in John Paul Stevens." Justice and rule of law go hand-in-hand with being a lawyer, but integrity is what makes a lawyer great.
Integrity is not easy. It takes constant vigilance. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, our back leg droops in standing postures, and we tweak a knee. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we misinterpret the law and make a mistake in citations. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we scowl at the grocery store clerk instead of smiling. But each time we act with integrity, we get stronger. Each time we make a conscious decision, the next time becomes that much easier.
Integrity is (yes, I'm going to say it), integral to a yoga practice. Without it, we cause harm. As we learn to cultivate integrity in our asanas and our pranayama (breathing), we learn to cultivate integrity in our lives. As Justice Stevens and President Obama have proven, there can be no higher calling for a lawyer.
Namaste and Blessings!